Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What happens in Confession

Confession: such a gloomy word for a grace-filled practice. Maybe that's why I'm supposed (?) to be calling it reconciliation--it sounds more positive. And maybe that's why more people don't go, because it sounds depressing to admit to sins.

I don't know anything about the effort to change the name of confession, but reconciliation is a perfect re-naming of confession (the sacrament of penance), because that is exactly what happens with this sacrament: reconciliation with God. It's taken me a bit to realize this. I remember my first confession--everyone who becomes Catholic has to make one before first communion (you know, since God and sin don't mix). Anyway, I had no idea what I was getting myself into that day in terms of how the sacrament would affect my life. My first confession felt mostly like a formality. I had my sins lined up to confess, but there weren't any that I was deeply ashamed of...they seemed pretty common place, and while I was trying my best to not be complacent, I was pretty sure I would commit the sins again (go, me).

Over time, as I continued to go to reconciliation, I started to really want to go, to need to go. I would be attending to life, not necessarily trying to dredge up my sins, but one would come to me, either by memory or by actually sinning, and I would think "and I have to wait until Saturday to go to confession!". Through Catholicism, I've come to the belief that Jesus has set up the main channel of forgiveness to happen through the sacrament of penance. Oh yes, I'm waiting for some flack from Protestants on that one, but something happens in the sacrament of penance that I have not experienced to the same degree as a Protestant who only confessed to Jesus in prayer and on occasion, to close friends.

It seems that two things have happened in me since I started going to confession regularly: my eyes are more open to sin in my life, and confessing sin to a priest actually seems to be keeping the sins I confess at bay. These have been HUGE graces to me. By now, I have come up with a lot of sins that have been deeply shameful to admit to, and these sins are the nasty nasty ones that wreck havoc on my life, as well as the people around me. So to be freed from them so simply and so miraculously is an enormous joy.

I'm marveling over how effective the sacrament of penance is. I'm a novice, so maybe eventually I will float down from my reconciliation cloud 9--I kind of doubt it, but I'll let you know. I shouldn't be surprised about reconciliation, though, because it's a sacrament. A sacrament is not just a nice little symbol, a sacrament actually imparts grace. From the Catechism; “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies.” (1127). That's exactly what I'm trying to say-- sacraments works! What a waste of time practicing rituals that are only symbols would be. But that is not what God has given us. I love this line found here,"Penance is the removal of the one obstacle that keeps the soul away from God". Thank you, Lord.


Joyful Catholics said...

I've only been going to confession/reconciliation for 3 years, and not sure exactly how many times. I feel like you, sometimes I hate to wait until Saturday. Sometimes I don't always "FEEL" sorry, unlike one of my friends, I don't cry or weep at every confession either. BUT I do know I AM SORRY for the sins I commit either in thought word and deed. It sometimes seems so long that I've had to deal with my lack of patience and temper when it flares...but Fr. Shane hears the 'same ol' same ol'" from me, and I leave usually very much on "Cloud 9" ...and after 3 years, that's just cool.


Anonymous said...

Elissa, I read your comments about Confession. If you have not had the chance to read the words of Jesus through St. Faustina and Divine Mercy, I would suggest. I know what you mean about looking forward-Jesus can't wait to clean us again and be totally united with Him. Thank you for your blog and allowing the Holy Spirit to use you to help others. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

i am going to be honest, at first i wasnt quite sure why i was confessing to god?
why i had to tell him my sins, as the priest says "god is everywhere". if so then why not see us do the things we have done wrong.
i now realise that we need to do this so god can forgive us, for however bad we have done he will always forgive us.
the thing is i dont tend to have the need to want to confess.
but i still try and go every month.